Over the years I have written several "book" or "booklets" and many, many, many newsletter and bulletin articles. Because the book market seeks writings to meet specific needs at specific times, my material has never been accepted. I have a tendency to write what is on my mind and so I am left with self publishing. So, with the encouragement from my wife and others, I am beginning this blog in order to put my "ramblings" "out there"! I hope you enjoy!


Please note that while my intentions are to use good grammar, because of the way in which some of the material presented here is presented (orally) the grammar and syntax might not always be the best English. Also note that good theology is not always presented in the best English so there may be times when the proper grammar rules are purposely broken.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Stewardship is . . . Time.

Maybe you have heard the four “T’s” of stewardship (or at least the three “T’s”) of time, talents and treasure and the fourth “T” tissue. God gives us all things. He gives us time, because each day is a gift from God. He gives us talents or abilities to accomplish the works that He has for us to do. He gives us treasures, the means to live in our world today. He gives us tissue, our bodies, which He expects us to care for as they are His temple.

We hear a lot about our treasure when we talk about stewardship. Let us take the time to talk a little more about God’s gift of time. Time is a gift from God. Each day is a gift from God. Jeffery, in the Family Circus comic strip stated to his sister Dolly, “Yesterday is over, that is why we call it the past. Tomorrow has not yet come, that is why we call it the future. And today is a gift from God, that is why we call it a present.” Because as God gives us the gift of time He also moves in us to use our time to His glory.

Unfortunately, there are some who would like to think that being a good steward means either giving of your time or of your talents or of your treasure. Maybe we have forgotten that God gives us all these, our time, our talents and our treasures (and our tissue) and we are to be good stewards of them all, using them to His glory.

God gives us 24 hours in a day and 128 hours in a week. How do we use those hours? How much time do we spend sleeping? eating? reading God’s Word? praying? watching TV? surfing the WEB? wasting time? God gives us time to use to His glory.

Dr. Martin Luther once stated that the more he had to do in a day, the more time he needed to spend in prayer at the beginning of the day. As the Lord gives us time and as we “give Him time,” so He gives us all the time we need to do the work that He has for us to do.

All this brings us the reminder that our Lord has saved us to do the good works He gives us to do and they are good works because He gives them to us to do, He moves in us to do them and we do them to His glory.
27 of 52 © Rev. Ronald A. Bogs

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Stewardship is . . . Talents.

Maybe you have heard the four “T’s” of stewardship (or at least the three “T’s”) of time, talents and treasure and the fourth “T” of tissue. God gives us all things. He gives us time, because each day is a gift from God. He gives us talents or abilities to accomplish the works that He has for us to do. He gives us treasures, the means to live in our world today. He gives us tissue, our bodies, which He expects us to care for as they are His temple.

We hear a lot about our treasure when we talk about stewardship, so let us take the time to talk a little more about God’s gift of talents. God gives and we are given to. God gives us the talents and abilities to do many things in our world. Some people have extra (ordinary) gifts and talents for music, some for sports, some for giving, some for crafts, some for arts, some for encouraging, some for serving, helping, and the list goes on and on. All of these gifts and talents are, indeed, gifts from God. Because as God gives us gifts and talents, He also moves in us to use those gifts and talents to His glory.

Unfortunately, there are some who would like to think that being a good steward means either giving of your time or of your talents or of your treasure. Maybe we have forgotten that God gives us all these, our time, our talents and our treasures (and our tissue) and we are to be good stewards of them all, using them to His glory.

God gives us talents and abilities which we use daily. Some people make good use of their talents and abilities and use them to make a living (which is one of the reasons God gives talents and abilities). We are good stewards of our God-given talents and abilities when we recognize that they are gifts from God and when we use them to His glory, whether in our work or in our service to Him.

All this brings us the reminder that our Lord has saved us to do the good works He gives us to do, and they are good works because He gives them to us to do, He moves in us to do them, and we do them to His glory.
26 of 52 © Rev. Ronald A. Bogs

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Christ or Else - June 26, 2011 - Second Sunday after Pentecost (Proper 08) - Text: Matthew 10:34-42

This morning brings us eight days before we celebrate the two hundred and thirty-fifth year of our independence as a nation. I will be one of the first to admit that I do not understand the concept of independence as well as an older person, especially as someone who has been through a war. I must confess that I often take my freedom for granted, after all, I have known nothing but freedom. But we all know, or at least have been told, that freedom does not come without a cost. The cost of freedom has been the lives of many Americans. This morning our text sets up a juxtaposition, that is it sets up opposites next to each other. Our text juxtaposes peace and war, life and death, Christ or else.

If we were asked if we would rather have peace or sword (or war), most of us, I would imagine, would most certainly say peace. We live in a world which fantasizes about peace. We have the United Nations which was initially set up to help maintain world peace. We set up our defenses to ensure peace. We send ambassadors to other nations to help promote peace. Since the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, we have not been so sure about peace and so our government has set up a department of homeland security. Our airports and our boarder patrols are working harder to make sure that we are protected from more terrorist. We all agree, we want peace, but at what cost? At any cost or at all cost?

The Bible reminds us, especially at Christmas time, that Jesus was born as the Prince of Peace. Certainly Jesus came in peace. He never did anything wrong. He never harmed anyone. He always did what was right and good. He was a peaceful man who brought a message of love, even God’s love for His people. Even the image we see at Christmas time is the picture of a peaceful serene night at the stable in which Jesus was born. We sing, “Silent Night, Holy Night, All is calm, all is bright . . . ” If there ever was a scene which depicted peace, calm and serenity, it would be the Christmas manger scene.

However, Jesus says He came not to bring peace, but to bring a sword. We read beginning at verse thirty-four of our text, “34Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. 35For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. 36And a person’s enemies will be those of his own household”(v. 34-36). These are Jesus’ words. He says He came to set “a man against his father,” He came to set “a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law,” He says that “a person’s enemies will be those of his own household.” So what is it? Did Jesus come to bring peace or a sword?

Before we answer that question, we also have the juxtaposition of life and death. Jesus continues speaking at verse thirty-seven by saying, “37Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. 38And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. 39Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it” (v. 37-39). So, what does this mean? Are we not to love our children or our parents? Maybe we are asking the wrong question. Maybe the better question is “How important is our own life in this world?”

Jesus says, “whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” Again, what does this mean? Maybe the better question is, “How important is your faith in Christ?”

Life or death, that seems to be the question of our text. Of course, we are at a disadvantage if we are thinking only in terms of physical life or physical death. Jesus is speaking, not just about physical life, not just about physical death, but He is speaking about spiritual life and eternal spiritual death as well.

War or peace, life or death, Jesus or else? Those seem to be our options. Let us take these options and put them into other terms. Let us ask the question a different way. Can a person follow Jesus and live in this world? Of course, as we sit comfortably in our pew here at St. Matthew Lutheran Church, worshiping Jesus, we will say, “yes.” After all, we are Christians, we are followers of Jesus and we are living in this world. The question might rather be, how much of our faith do we compromise when we leave this place and go out into the rest of the world? When we leave this place, this safe haven, this sanctuary, do we go out into the world, to our jobs, to be with our family and friends and simply listen to and agree with everything they say in order to keep the peace? Do we listen to the sociological and theological positions, the ideologies and concepts of the rest of the world and give the impression that we agree? Notice I said, “give the impression that we agree?” Maybe you have never heard it said this way, but, apathy is simply the impression of a low level of agreement. In other words, if we remain apathetic to the false teachings and doctrines of the world, the false ideologies and concepts, the false theologies of the world, that is the same as implying we agree with them, whether we do nor not. So, do we simply stand by and listen and remain apathetic, or do we disagree and stand up for our faith, even knowing that we may be persecuted?

Back to our questions, stated another way, “Can a person live in this world and follow Jesus?” How often do we see and hear in the news that someone, some Christian makes a public statement concerning the pluralism or politically correctness of our world and when it is not said the way society says it should be said, that person is chastised for their statement. In other words, they are said to be intolerant. Can a person live as a Christian in our world? To put that another way. Think about your own life. I have asked this question and now I ask again, “If you were accused of being a Christian, would there be enough evidence against you to convict you?”

Can we have it both ways? Perhaps you might remember the illustration I told a while back about the young man who was a Christian and had a summer job working in a lumber jack camp. This lumber jack camp was known as one of the roughest, toughest, rudest, and meanest lumber jack camps in all the world. And the young man was known by his family and friends and his church as being a strong Christian. When questioned about his taking this summer job he suggested that he would make out all right. At the end of the summer he came back home before heading back to college. When asked how he fared at the lumber jack camp he answered that everything went well. When asked how they reacted when they found out he was a Christian he answered, “they never knew.” Was he a Christian or was he not?

The disciples answered that this is too hard. That Jesus was asking too much. How often do we say the same thing? Do we understand the extent of the sacrifice that Jesus is asking of us? More often we simply pay lip service to Jesus’ demand for total allegiance. Maybe it would help if we begin with Jesus. When we begin with Jesus we understand and believe that Christ gives us His all. He gave His life for ours, even though He did not have to. He gave up the glory that was His in heaven. He humbled Himself and took on human flesh and blood, becoming one with us, one like us, except without sin. Then, He, who was without sin, took our sins upon Himself. He allowed Himself to be crucified for our sin. He suffered the eternal death penalty for us in our place. His death gained freedom from sin for us so that we might have life.

Not only that, Christ also gives us His Holy Spirit, along with gifts and abilities to do the works of service which He has for us to do. The Holy Spirit, working through the Word and the Sacraments, the means of grace, gives us faith, strengthens us in our faith, and keeps us in faith. He gives us all His good gifts and blessings, faith, forgiveness, life and salvation.

And more, Christ gives us the ability to lose our lives for His sake. We cannot do it on our own. On our own we continually fall victim to temptation and sin. We would continually deny Jesus and our faith in Him. We continue to seek peace on the terms of our world.

Christ brings the question of war or peace, life or death, Christ or else. Christ is the center of controversy, even in our world today. He cannot be ignored. His name, His person, His Word bring struggles. Wars have been fought and are still being fought over His name. While the world tries to ignore Him it cannot. While the world tries to place Him as just a good man, a good teacher and the like, it cannot deny His being God. The very mention of His name brings controversy.

Jesus words in our text are still true today. We do have to place Him somewhere in our list of priorities. He wants first place. What place do we give Him? And before you answer, remember that it is not that He wants us to say that He is first in our lives, He wants us to live it, to show that He has first place. I believe that one of Satan’s greatest victories today is that he convinces us that if we say that Jesus is number one in our lives, then we can go on and live however we want to live, because we have said Jesus is first. Yet, our actions betray us as we live something other than Jesus being first in our lives. We live putting other things ahead of our relationship with Jesus. “After all,” we rationalize, “I have said that Jesus is the number one priority in my life, what is wrong with skipping church on Sunday in order to do something I like to do?” Our actions betray us when we sit idly by and apathetically say nothing in response to those who bash our Lord’s good name.

Jesus does not say that we are not to love father or mother, brother or sister, He simply says that we are to love Him more than these. He has come to bring war and the war He brought was the war which He won, the war against the devil. He has won and His prize is us as His people. We can either live our lives as if this world is all we have, thus finding our lives, and in so doing we will risk eternal life. Or we can live our lives as if this world is but for a moment, thus losing our lives in this world, and in so doing gaining eternal life in heaven. We can live in the present as if this is all we have or we can live with the understanding that our time in this world is short compared to our time in eternity and with that in mind, we live our lives with that eternal perspective focusing on the things of eternal life. We cannot have it both ways.

Thanks be to God that Jesus came, not to bring peace, but to bring war. And thanks be to God that He won the war. We do need forgiveness for our sins and thanks be to God that He grants us that forgiveness. Thanks be to God that by His grace, through faith in Jesus, not only do we have forgiveness, but we also have peace, not as the world gives, but the peace that Jesus gives, the peace that passes all understanding, the peace of knowing that our sins are forgiven and that we have eternal life with Him. As Christians, by ourselves we can do no good thing, only refuse and reject what God gives, but by God’s grace, through faith, which He gives to us, He works in us, He moves in us, He stirs in us so that with His help we do live our lives to the glory of the Lord. And with the help of the Holy Spirit we are moved to say, to God be the glory, for Jesus’ sake. Amen.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Stewardship is . . . Response.

There is a church in which the pastor stands up after he is done preaching and announces that the offering is being taken. He announces that if you liked what he said then remember that in the sermon offering. And he reminds the congregation that it does cost money to “run” a church. It costs to use electricity, gas, water, to have trash picked up, for telephone service and the like.

It would be a dangerous thing to ask people to respond according to their like or dislike of a sermon, but the comments about the cost of “running” a church are very valid. However, to respond in giving because of either of these reasons is to misunderstand stewardship. Stewardship is not “did I like the Pastor’s sermon or not,” because we never like to hear the Pastor saying bad things about us (about others, okay, but not about us [when the pastor is talking about us and our sins, that’s meddling]). Stewardship is not giving to a charitable organization as if the church would somehow go bankrupt if we did not give.

Stewardship is recognizing that everything we have is a gift from God and then responding to His giving. We respond by giving back to Him what He has given to us to give in the first place and keeping some of what He gives to us for ourselves.

Personal stewardship is important because it is an exercise in faith. Our stewardship is how we show God what is in our hearts. Instead of not giving because we did not like what the Pastor was preaching and instead of giving because, one Sunday out of fifty-two we did like what he said, we give because of what God says to us through His Word and Sacraments. Instead of giving because the church needs my money to keep the doors open, we give because we recognize that God has given us all things and He works through the church to give even more to others. To God be the glory.
25 of 52 © Rev. Ronald A. Bogs

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Stewardship is . . . King recognition.

Remember the story of Jacob’s Ladder (Dream)? At the end of that story Jacob says, “. . . and of all that You give me I will surely give a tenth to You.” What Jacob is doing and saying is that He recognizes that the Lord is his God and King and that He is the one who first gives to him, and so he is acknowledging this by giving Him the tribute that is due Him, the tithe or tenth of everything.

There are many instances of this tithe in the Word of God. Very often a conquering country would impose a tax of a tithe on the conquered country. Even Abraham recognized this tithing when he gave a tenth of the spoils to Melchizedek, the priest of God most High, after he defeated Cherdorlaomer and the kings who were with him (Genesis 14).

Certainly, we are burdened with more than a tithe worth of taxes to our government, yet we are reminded that our government is from God and is meant to keep good order in the land. This tithe or more of tax is only part of our recognizing and thanking the Lord for the peace and good order we have in the land.

Do we only recognize our government as the rulers in the land, or do we recognize that our great and all powerful God really is the ruler, the king of all. Our stewardship reflects our recognition of who is King. What does our stewardship reflect?

Here we are reminded that our stewardship is not something we do on our own. Our stewardship is what we do with the Lord’s help, because in and of ourselves we are unable to be the good stewards God would have us to be. May the Lord bless us so that we can be good stewards and stewards that give to our King, acknowledging Him as such. To Him be the glory!
24 of 52 © Rev. Ronald A. Bogs

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Stewardship is . . . to know God will provide.

In the testing of Abraham, God told him to sacrifice his son, his only son, Isaac. Abraham obeyed and set out to do what God had commanded him to do, trusting that all things would work out to the glory of God and believing, even in the resurrection.

On their way, Isaac asks where is the lamb to be sacrificed. Abraham answered, “God himself will provide the lamb for the burnt offering, my son” (Gen. 22:8). With these words Abraham acknowledged that all things come from God. God is the giver, we are the given to. God gives even those things we give back to him.

We talk about giving our first fruits, our tithes and our offerings. Often, we feel good about bringing these things to the Lord. And that is good, but do we consciously realize and acknowledge, as Abraham, that God is the one who is providing?

When we bring our first fruits, tithes, and offerings to the Lord we are not bringing something that we have somehow earned, deserved, created, or own, rather we are merely bring to the Lord something which, in one way or another, He has first given and provided for us to bring.

How the Lord rejoices when we come to Him, bringing our first fruits, tithes and offerings, acknowledging that we are bringing only what He has provide for us to bring to Him. And so we bring those things He provides us to bring saying, “To God be the glory.”
23 of 52 © Rev. Ronald A. Bogs

Sunday, June 19, 2011

The Gift of the Trinity - June 19, 2011 - The Holy Trinity/Father's Day - Text: Matthew 28:16-20

Today we celebrate the secular holiday of Father’s Day, so let me first say, Happy Father’s Day to all our fathers. The gift of fatherhood is a special gift and responsibility from God and unfortunately one that too many father’s do not take seriously in our world today. As a father it is indeed your God given responsibility to care for your family, not only for their physical well being, but also more importantly as you are here in divine service this morning to care for their spiritual well being. Thank you for being here.

Now, more importantly than being Father’s Day, today we celebrate Holy Trinity Sunday, we celebrate that we have a God who has revealed Himself to us as three persons in one God. I am sure that you have heard many explanations about the trinity and maybe you have tried to give an explanation for the Holy Trinity. It is not easy. We explain God as being like water, that is, water can be a gas, steam; a liquid, water; and a solid, ice; but these are not three different things, but only one thing, H2O. We might say that God is like a tree which has roots, a trunk and leaves and yet there are not three trees, but only one tree. God is, and has revealed Himself to us as Father, Son and Holy Spirit, but He is not three different Gods, only one God and three persons. See, trying to explain the trinity is a lot harder than admitting that we do not completely understand and will not completely understand until we reach heaven. So, we accept the words our Lord gives to us and go on. Personally, I think that God did not want us to dwell on His trinity so much, otherwise He would have given us many more details and He does not.

So, let us get to our text and see what He does tell us. Our text begins with Jesus meeting with His disciples after His resurrection. We read beginning at verse sixteen, “Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. And when they saw him they worshiped him, but some doubted” (v. 16-17). Before His death and resurrection, Jesus told His disciples that He would go ahead of them and that they would meet Him at a predetermined sight, namely this mountain on which they were now.

The disciple came, our text says, and they worshiped Him. We are not told how they worshiped or what happened during their worship, simply that they worshiped Him. I would suggest that they worshiped Him in the same way that we worship Him, that is that as they approached their Lord they came with awe, respect and adoration.

But, Matthew says, “some doubted.” Can you imagine? After all that had taken place, some still doubted. After all the signs, wonders and miracles Jesus performed, after He healed, raised from the dead, cast out demons and the like, some doubted. Can you imagine? Here is Jesus, risen from the dead, standing in all His glory and yet even while He is on this earth there is still doubt. Not that we would ever doubt, right? For Jesus, there is a lot of work left to be done.

Our text continues with Jesus giving what we call the great commission or, what I have heard called, the Great Promise. We read at verse eighteen, “And Jesus came and said to them, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age’” (v. 18-20).

Jesus begins by telling His disciple that all authority has been given to Him. Jesus has all authority. He is true man and true God. As true man He never fully used His, all authority, but now that He has risen and is ascending into heaven He will be using His, all authority. But even more, the implication is that Jesus gives that same all authority to His disciples and to us. Very often, when we hear a great commission sermon we hear about what we are to do and we feel like we are left hanging because we do not know how we are to do it. We feel less than capable, so, we make excuses or we simply do nothing. But, look at the text, Jesus begins with Himself, that He has all authority, and then He implies what He does, namely that He gives us the commission and He gives us the authority. And that is quite a promise that He gives to us.

The commission is that, as we are going, as we are living our lives, as we are in the process of being in the Word, as we are being given the sacraments, we will make disciples. It is very much like the pitcher and cup illustration I like to use. God is like a bottomless (un-empty-able) pitcher of water. We are like glasses. Each week, every day, as we read the word of God, remember our Baptism, come to the Lord’s Supper, He fills us. Now, we can be selfish and always come back with a larger glass and never be filled, giving us a reason (at least in our own minds) to do nothing that the Lord wants us to do. Or, we could come once and be filled, then stay away. We stay away making other excuses, we don’t like the music, we don’t like the long service, we don’t like other people, we don’t like one thing or another. And what happens to water in a glass that does not get filled or refilled? It eventually evaporates, in other words, we could lose our faith. Or we could come each week and every day and be given God’s gifts, be filled by Him through His means of grace to the point that we are overflowing which is when we begin doing what God wants us to do, share our faith with others. We, here at St. Matthew Lutheran Church, are in a great situation. The Lord has blessed us with more blessings than we might think or imagine. He has seen fit to give us all His gifts, through His Word and His Sacraments. Through His Word and Sacraments He reminds us of His great love for us, so much so that He gave us His only Son to die on the cross for us. And now we hear Him tell us that He gives us the authority to share His good news with others. What a great promise, privilege, and responsibility.

Jesus does not just give the commission and the authority, He also gives the plan, or the means to get the job done, namely the Word and the Sacraments. Earlier in His ministry Jesus gave us His Supper, now in our text He gives us the sacrament of Holy Baptism. Jesus says we are to make disciples by baptizing, through the means of baptizing, so that baptism makes disciples. And there is more, He also gives us the means of the word. Along with baptism we are to teach. We are to teach using God’s Word. We are to teach all about Jesus and what He has done and continues to do for us. We are to share God’s Word which works faith in the heart, which tells of forgiveness and of life and salvation.

Going back to baptism, Jesus gives us the baptism formula. He says that we are to baptize in His name, in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. As we look at baptism we see that it is pure Gospel. Baptism is God’s doing and our being done to. This is seen best in the baptism of a little child, of a baby. What part is the baby playing? What is the baby doing? Nothing, except being given what God is giving. And that is what baptism is all about. God giving us His gifts. Our being given His gifts. Baptism is our being made disciples.

In baptism God tells us how to use His name, that we are to put His name on others. This idea of putting God’s name on someone is a very important thing. In the Old Testament, God’s putting His name on something or someone, meant that they belonged to Him. God put His name on the children of Israel and they were His. They were given His blessings and all that He had to give to them.

For us, at our baptism, God’s name being put on us means that God chooses us, He puts faith in our hearts, He gives us forgiveness, He writes our names in the book of heaven, He gives us His gifts. Notice that the focus is always on Him and what He does, not on us and what we do. The statement is often made by those who do not believe in infant baptism, that we should not baptize infants because they cannot believe. I contend, first that their focus is wrong, namely that they are focusing on the person rather than on God. Their focus is on the one being given to rather than on the one giving. Second, I contend that infants, that babies, can believe, it is just that they do not express their faith like you and I because they cannot talk. Infants believe in their parents, they believe their parents will care for them, will feed them only nourishing food, and the like. Infants do believe, because faith is a gift that is given by God in their hearts.

Finally, there is the question concerning how the water is to be put on. Here again we continue to focus on the wrong thing. If the way the water was to be put on was a big issue then God would have said do it this way or that. The way the water is put on is not the important thing so God leaves that up to us. The important thing in baptism is God doing His thing, His putting His name on us, His giving us faith, His giving us forgiveness. His giving us life and salvation.

When Jesus spoke on the mountain, He was not just speaking to His disciples, He was speaking to us today. We have the great commission and promise today. We have Jesus telling us that He has all authority, that He gives us all authority, that He moves in us to share our faith with others through our lives, in thought, word and deed.

Unfortunately, our American culture and society have moved us to use many excuses to keep us from sharing our faith with others. We have the excuse that we have no right to force our beliefs on others. God’s answer is that He gives us all authority, the right if you will, to share our faith with others and He also tells us that there is salvation in no other name than in His name. If we do not tell others then we contribute to their destruction.

Our excuse is that we do not know how to share our faith with others. God’s answer is that He gives us the means of grace, and in particular He gives us His Word to share with others. And even more in particular, whether we are aware of it or not, we do share our faith with others as we share His word through our very lives, in our thoughts, in our words and in our actions. By bearing the name “Christian,” everything we do is a witness, and unfortunately, not always a good witness.

Our excuse is that we can’t. God’s answer is that He gives us the assurance that He is with us. We can’t is true. By ourselves we can do nothing. Dr. Martin Luther said it best in the explanation to the third article, “I believe that I cannot by my own reason or strength . . . do anything,” and that applies to everything in our lives. By ourselves we can do nothing, but God does not tell us that we are to do this by ourselves. He tells us that He gives us the authority and that He will be with us to gives us the ability to do what He has for us to do. The focus is placed back where it belongs, on Jesus.

As we celebrate Holy Trinity Sunday let me assure you and encourage you, most importantly, no matter how often we fail to be the people God would have us to be, He forgives us. Did you notice that some of the disciples doubted, yet Jesus forgave them. We may doubt, but God forgives. He forgives, He loves us, He is with us, He gives us His authority, He blesses our lives, our thoughts, words and actions and makes them fruitful and ultimately He brings us to life eternal where He robes us with His robes of righteousness. And we say, to God be the glory, for Jesus’ sake. Amen.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Stewardship is . . . acknowledging God.

When the children of Israel were ready to build the tabernacle in the desert, Moses invited the people to make donations for the materials that were needed. Their outpouring of gifts was so much that Moses finally had to tell the people to stop giving. Just think how their giving would have been tainted if Moses would have given them a budget.

When we give our first fruits, our tithes, and our offerings to the Lord we give them to the Lord, not to a budget. Budgets are good. They are especially important in planning, but they are not our master. Far be it for us to be the slaves of our budget.

When we give to a budget we limit ourselves, because, unfortunately, there are many who would like to run a church as a business which sees finances as a balance sheet. In a church we have that unseen variable of the power of the Holy Spirit moving in the hearts of people to give to do the work our Lord has for us to do.

We give to acknowledge and confess that all we have is a gift from God. Just think, if we all gave according to what God has given to us we could easily double, triple and even quadruple our “budget.” And just think what the potential for building the Lord’s kingdom that would be. Would it not be wonderful to hear God come to us and say, “Hold on, you are giving too much.”

We cannot and do not give of our own initiative. We can and do give because the Holy Spirit stirs in us to give. Pray that the Holy Spirit might stir in you the desire to give, not toward a budget, but according to what you have first been given to by the Lord.
22 of 52 © Rev. Ronald A. Bogs

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Stewardship is . . . a God giving response.

Our giving is always motivated by faith, not by our budget needs. Waldo J. Werning in his book, Supply-Side Stewardship reminds us:
Budgets are spending guides, not collection guides. Therefore the educational program in Christian giving should precede setting the budget or informing the people what the budget may be. The people actually set the budget by their commitment in planned, first-fruit, proportionate giving.
The business world would have you look at how much you expect to “make” in a determined period and then set you budget accordingly. In the church we are expected to do God’s work and to set our budget accordingly, understanding that God will give the wherewithal to do the work what He would have us to do. Notice the difference in these two worlds. The business world is dependent on people and what people can accomplish. The church is dependent on God and what God working through the church can accomplish. And here we are reminded that we are the church.

We set our budget, but that does not mean we have to settle for “just making our budget.” Our Lord is a great God, He is an almighty God who can do amazing things. He can work through us so that our giving surpasses our budget so much that we can do even more and greater things than we can think or image. Always remembering that we do what we do so that we may grow in our spiritual life, so that His kingdom may be extended in our neighborhood, in our community, and beyond, and so that praise and glory may be given to His Holy Name.
21 of 52 © Rev. Ronald A. Bogs

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Stewardship is . . . a faith response.

Our giving is always motivated by faith, not by resources. Waldo J. Werning in his book, Supply-Side Stewardship reminds us:
Better incomes never have and never will produce better givers. Faith determines what we will give: The stronger the faith, the higher the percentage; the weaker the faith, the lower the percentage. Our prayer is, “Lord, increase my faith,” not, “Lord, increase my income so I can give more.”
How much money a person has does not determine how good of a steward that person is. Remember the story of the widow’s mite. While all the other “rich” people were giving their huge amounts, she gave only two mites, the smallest coins minted, and yet Jesus says she gave the most.

Our objective, then, is not to raise money, but to grow spiritually. Thus, again quoting Werning:
Money-raising campaigns and drives are not the solution to the church’s financial needs. Raise people spiritually, and you will raise money too. Giving is a byproduct of spiritual growth. (Emphasis added.)
The encouragement we hear coming from the pastor is to be in the Word. It is through Word (Bible) and Sacrament (Holy Baptism, Lord’s Supper) ministry (the means of grace) that we grow spiritually. And the by product of our spiritual growth is the physical growth of our congregation, in numbers of people, in attendance, in amount and upkeep of facilities, in all aspects. With the emphasis always on strengthening our own members, extending God’s Kingdom and giving praise and glory to His Holy Name.
20 of 52 © Rev. Ronald A. Bogs

Monday, June 13, 2011

The Promise to Send the Holy Spirit - June 12, 2011 - The Day of Pentecost - Text: John 7:37-39

Ten days ago we celebrate Ascension Day. Ascension Day marked forty days after Easter and the ascending of Jesus to the place from which He descended in order to fulfill the promise He made in the Garden of Eden that He would take care of the sin of Adam and Eve and all people by paying the price for sin which is death, eternal spiritual death. After Jesus’ resurrection He showed Himself to be alive and He did this for forty days, showing Himself to many people so that they might believe that He did indeed rise from the dead. Before He ascended He promised that He would send the Holy Spirit, the Comforter, the Helper to be with His Apostles so that they too might have the ability to perform signs, wonders and miracles which would attest to the truth of their proclamation of Jesus’ resurrection. Today is the day we celebrate the giving of the Holy Spirit.

Before we get to our text I want to briefly look at the other lessons. The Old Testament Lesson for today is the account of the sending of the Holy Spirit on the Elders of Israel. This account happened soon after Israel was delivered from Egypt and the purpose was to show that these elders were set apart by God to help Moses in leading and governing the people. The interesting part of this account is the fact that even the two men who remained in the camp, for whatever reason, were given the Holy Spirit, showing us that it is not we who deserve or initiate this giving and being given the Holy Spirit, but it is God who gives and He gives according to His good and gracious will.

In the Second Reading for today, the reading from the Acts of the Apostles, we have the account of the events of that first Pentecost day and the giving of the Holy Spirit. This Pentecost event of the giving of the Holy Spirit actually coincided with the Jewish Feast of Pentecost which was a harvest celebration. Here again we see God’s hand and perfect timing in time and history as the events of Jesus’ life, death, resurrection, ascension and now the sending of the Holy Spirit fit so well so that there would be many people in Jerusalem to bear witness of this new Pentecost event, so that they might be given faith and be able to take the message of salvation back to their own towns and cities.

Now, getting to our text for this morning, our Gospel reading. Again, the words of the text, “37On the last day of the feast, the great day, Jesus stood up and cried out, ‘If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. 38Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, “Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.”’ 39Now this he said about the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were to receive, for as yet the Spirit had not been given, because Jesus was not yet glorified” (v. 37-39).

John tells us that this is the last day of the feast in other words, this is the last day of the feast of tabernacles or booths and it was the great day, that is it was the last day of the feast. On this day the leaves and branches used to build the booths were taken down and waved against the altar. The priests would process around the altar seven times in thankfulness, then a priest was sent to get a pitcher of water from the pool of Siloam and pour it out on the side of the altar. All these ceremonies had been added over the years and the last symbol, the pouring of water was to find its fulfillment in the days of the Messiah.

It was at this point that Jesus stood up, not as a teacher, but as a proclaimer. He applied these words of Isaiah 12:3, “With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation,” to Himself telling the people that He is the fulfillment of these words, that is, He is the Messiah.

The words of Scripture Jesus quotes are from God providing water in the wilderness for the Children of Israel. The water of the pool of Siloam was considered living water because it was continually filled by means of a natural spring in the rock. However, it was still only earthly water so that if anyone did drink of the water they would still get thirsty again. Jesus, however is the fountain of living water so that if they drink from Him they will never thirst again.

Jesus was pointing to the Holy Spirit whom He would send after His ascension and glorification. At this time the miracle of Pentecost had not yet happened. Thus Jesus makes note that those who would be given the Holy Spirit are those who do not reject Him, indeed it would be those who believe in Him who would be given the Holy Spirit. And again, after His work of redemption was complete and He returned to His glory in heaven.

So, what does this mean? First it might serve us well to debunk a couple historical heresies. One, God is not three Gods, one God the Father, a second God the Son, and a third God the Holy Spirit. Second, God did not present Himself in different modes, in other words He was not God the Father who then changed into God the Son and finally changed into God the Holy Spirit. God is God, three distinct persons in one divine being, never separated, always one so that the Father is God, the Son is God and the Holy Spirit is God, but the Son is not the Father, nor the Spirit and the Spirit is not the Father nor the Son and the Father is not the Spirit nor the Son. Next week we will confess this in the Athanasian Creed on Holy Trinity Sunday. Anyway, the fact is that the Holy Spirit has been around since before the creation of the world, with the Father and the Son. In Genesis we read that the “spirit” of God, that is the Holy Spirit, hovered over the face of the earth. We read how God said, “Let us make man in our image.” We read how God plural says He is one, “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one” (Deut. 6:4). And there are many other passages from the Old and New Testament attesting to the fact that the Holy Spirit has been around with the Father and the Son since time eternal.

Not only has the Holy Spirit been around, He was active in the Old and the New Testaments. Again, we read of His participation at creation. We read of the Spirit working at the time of Moses as we read in our Old Testament reading for today. We read of the Spirit working especially at the time of the judges and even the kings of Israel. Especially in the New Testament we read of the work of the Holy Spirit.

Many times Jesus proclaimed and promised the sending of the Holy Spirit. Especially as we read in our text for today, Jesus promised to send the Holy Spirit and He connected this promise and its fulfillment with the proclamation that He was the Messiah. So, we can see why the Pharisees and teachers of the Law continually wanted to be rid of Him.

As Jesus promised, the Holy Spirit is given to those who believe and actually is the one who works and gives faith. Yes, the Holy Spirit is alive and well and is working in our world today. Today, however, the Holy Spirit’s usual way of working with us and giving to us is indirectly, or as we say mediately through means and in particular through the means of grace, which are confession and absolution, the very Word of God and the sacraments, Holy Baptism and the Lord’s Supper. It is especially through the means of Holy Baptism that the Holy Spirit first comes to us in our lives as we are brought to the living waters of Baptism and have water and God’s name placed on us and at that very moment the Holy Spirit does His work giving us faith, forgiveness, life and salvation along with writing God’s name on us and writing our names in the book of life.

As to the question of the outward, immediate working of the Holy Spirit in our world today let me say this, as the Apostles, to whom the Holy Spirit was first given and as He was given to attest to their message, so as the Apostles died out so did the immediate working of the Holy Spirit. I am very skeptical of so-called direct miracles in our world today. Today God has chosen to work in us and to give His gifts to us through means. Certainly God can go outside His usual way, but that is a rare thing. In our world today, normally, God comes to us and gives the gifts He has to give through the very means He has given us to give His gifts.

As for the work of the Holy Spirit, His work is to always point to Jesus. You may have noticed that the reason we do not see or hear too much of the Holy Spirit is for the simple fact that He never points to Himself. He is always only pointing to Jesus. And He points to Jesus through the means of grace. Again, what this means for us today is that the way we are given God’s gifts and blessings, the way or the means through which God gives us His gifts is through means. Thus, when we absent ourselves from the means of grace we absent ourselves from being given the gifts God has to give. It is kind of like our daily food. If we do not go to the grocery store, the place where we get our food, then we have no food to eat and we eventually starve. We may not remember all the meals we have eaten, but it is important that we eat. So likewise, we come to divine service to be fed and although we may not always remember what we have been fed, it is important to be fed. And interestingly enough if we continue to absent ourselves, refusing and rejecting the gifts God has to give, He may give us our way and harden our hearts against Him as He did with Pharaoh in Egypt.

Certainly we have all heard of the unforgivable sin. The unforgivable sin is the sin against the Holy Spirit, which is a denial of the proclamation of the Holy Spirit, or better said, the unforgivable sin is dying in unbelief. So, as we refuse and reject God’s gifts by absenting ourselves from the means of grace and in particular from the place in which the means of grace are regularly distributed, divine service on Sunday morning, we put our spiritual souls in peril.

God loves us so much. God loves you so much and He has so much that He wants to give to you, so many gifts and blessings, even beyond your imagination. God created you to love you. God created you so that He might give to you. And He gives the gifts He has to give through His means of grace.

Today we celebrate the gift of the Holy Spirit and His giving us faith, strengthening and keeping us in faith and stirring in us to live lives of faith to God’s glory. We also celebrate the fact that just as He did in the Old Testament so it is today that the Holy Spirit works when and where He pleases despite and at times in spite of us. We are not the prime movers. It does not depend on us. God is the prime mover. God works, God gives, God stirs in us, God motivates us, God gives and we are given to.

Today we celebrate God’s gifts of the Holy Spirit. We also celebrate God’s gifts of faith, strengthening of faith, forgiveness of sins, life, and salvation. We celebrate that our justification began and ended with Jesus and so now even our sanctification begins and ends with Jesus. And we celebrate that He works in us and stirs in us to say, to God be the glory, for Jesus’ sake. Amen.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Stewardship is . . . God at work in us.

God’s Word is a Word with power. God’s Word is a Word which does what it says. God’s Word does not return void. God’s Word is God’s Word and because it is His Word we know we can believe it, we can trust it, we can stake our lives on it. Or as it has been popularly expressed, “God said it. I believe it. That settles it.”

If you do not go to the grocery store regularly to purchase food to prepare and eat, you will starve to death which means physical death. So, too, if you do not go to where the Lord gives His spiritual gifts, regularly, so that you may inwardly digest His Word, as well as partake of His body and blood, you will starve to death spiritually, which means eternal death.

God gives us His Word and His Sacraments. He gives us these means though which He gives us all the rest of the gifts He has to give to us, faith, strengthening of faith, forgiveness of sins, life, salvation . . . When we absent ourselves from these means (God’s spiritual grocery store) we begin to starve spiritually. But when we are given these gifts from God, then we are filled with His life-giving gifts and we grow spiritually. We are given these gifts as we make regular and diligent use of His means of grace, attending worship, reading His Word, remembering our Baptism and coming to the Lord’s Supper. As we make use of these means we grow in our spiritual life. As we grow spiritually we begin to bear the fruits of the spirit, love, peace, patience, etc.

Being good stewards of God’s gifts (the means of grace, Word and Sacraments) is a tough responsibility, as well as a duty and a privilege, but our Lord is there to help us to be good stewards and He helps us through the very means of which He gives us to be stewards. With the help of the Holy Spirit, working through the Word and Sacraments we are good stewards of the mysteries of God and we are good stewards to the glory of God.
19 of 52 © Rev. Ronald A. Bogs

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Stewardship is . . . a privilege for Christians.

The scene was the Divine Service of one of our Asian churches in the Los Angeles area. The time had come for the offering. The pastor rose and quietly surveyed the assembly. Most of the people were recent converts to Christianity, many from Buddhist backgrounds. In the congregation were some non-Christians, spouses of members, or visitors invited by their friends.

The pastor spoke: “And now we come to the time when we bring our offerings to the Lord. With all respect, I should say to our visitors that this is not a collection of money. This is not a collection for charity. Those who are not Christians are not permitted to contribute to this offering.

“This is a privilege,” he continued, “a spiritual and holy ritual for those who believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and are baptized to respond to God’s love and grace. It is their opportunity to fulfill their loving obligation as the children of God as they return part of the money they have received from Him to build the church and reach out to the world.”

The pastor bowed first to the people, then reverently toward the altar. Then the ushers appeared with the offering plates. . . .

“Those who are not Christians are not permitted to contribute to this offering.” Now that’s a new one! Or is it?

The Old Testament speaks often of offerings that were acceptable to God (see Gen. 4:5; Prov. 15:8; Is. 1:11, 66:3; Jer. 6:20, 14:12; Amos 5:22). In Acts 8:9-24, Peter told a man who was captive to sin, “May your money perish with you!” (V. 20). And in 3 John 7, the apostle notes that he received “no help from pagans.”

These principles also relate tot he Christian’s reason for giving, as the pastor noted. Paul wrote the Philippi an Christians that they should have an offering, but added in effect, “Not because I desire a gift, but because you need the spiritual exercise!” (see Phil. 4:17).

Paul didn’t need the money. The people needed the opportunity to give. They needed the spiritual discipline of stewardship.

So only Christians can bring a true offering of praise and thanks to God. And when they do, it must be for the right reasons.

God doesn’t need our money. We need God. And we need the opportunity to serve and worship Him with our time, talent and treasure.

We don’t give just because there’s a need. We give because we need to give. And only Christians are permitted to give.

“I respectfully note to our visitors that only members of the Christian church are permitted to contribute to our offering.”

Taken from In My Opinion, “The Lutheran Witness,” November 1992, written by Dr. Donald L. Deffner. The original article was titles: ‘We Don’t Want Your Money.’
18 of 52 © Rev. Ronald A. Bogs

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Stewardship is . . . receiving, not taking.

God gives and we are receive. We hear these words concerning our faith, forgiveness, life and salvation. But there is a better, clearer way to say it. God gives and we are given to. When we say we receive something the implication (although very subtle) is that we are doing something. When we say we are given to, we imply that we do nothing, which is what actually happens.

God gives and we are given to. This also applies to stewardship. God gives, God gives, and God gives some more. We are given to, we are given to, and we are given to some more. For some, we are given to so much that we spill over on to others. For others, we are given to as if we were a bottomless pit.

We take from God when we are given to and refuse to acknowledge that we are given to. We acknowledge we are given to by responding, with the help of the Holy Spirit, in our thoughts our words and our deeds.

Our giving is one way God allows us to acknowledge and respond to His giving. This is where the suggestion is usually made that a person should give back to God a certain portion of what God has given. Maybe the best way to think about it is that God has given us everything. Everything really and truly is His. Maybe we should ask the question, “How much of what He has given to us should we keep for ourselves?” Or do we just take what He gives and ask for more?

Fortunately for us, just as God has provided for all our needs for today, He will do so again tomorrow, even if we do not acknowledge how much we have been given to today. We do not need to trust God to give us what we need. We do not need to pray to God to ask Him to give us what we need, He gives it anyway. God gives and we are given to, praise be the name of the Lord.
17 of 52 © Rev. Ronald A. Bogs

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Jesus Prays - June 5, 2011 - Seventh Sunday of Easter - Text: John 17:1-11

Last Thursday we celebrated a little celebrated Holiday, Ascension Day. I believe it is a little celebrated holiday for the simple reason that there really is nothing you can sell to celebrate Ascension Day. Anyway, Ascension Day marks forty days since Jesus’ resurrection. Ascension Day is the day when Jesus gathered His disciples on the mountain and told them to wait in Jerusalem until He sent the Holy Spirit. Next Sunday will mark fifty days after Easter and we will celebrate the giving of what Jesus promised as we will celebrate Pentecost and the giving of the Holy Spirit.

Today is the seventh Sunday of Easter, Easter Day is counted as the first Sunday of Easter. In our first lesson for today the disciples had returned from the Mount called Olivet where they witnessed Jesus as He ascended and returned to heaven the place from which He had originally descended in order to become incarnate, to suffer and die for our sins. Again, before He ascended He tells His disciples that He will be sending the Holy Spirit. In our Gospel lesson, which is our text, Jesus prays for Himself and for His disciples. I believe He is also praying for us and let me assure you, I am praying for you as well. As we look at Jesus prayer, perhaps this might help us in our own prayer life. Much like the Lord’s Prayer which is a model prayer for us, so Jesus prayer in our text might also serve as such a model as we pray for ourselves and each other.

Getting to Jesus’ prayer. Jesus prays for Himself. He and the Father are one and so He prays that He and the Father might be given glory, but not as you and I think of glory. Jesus prayer is that they might be given glory as part of His death and resurrection. This might not make sense to us if we are thinking in human, earthly terms, but if we are thinking in sinner, saint terms, then we can see how Jesus’ death and resurrection gained glory. We give Him glory and praise because through His suffering and death the price for our sins has been paid. So, we give Him glory and in giving Him glory we give the Father glory.

As true God, Jesus had all authority, but as true man He did not always nor fully use that authority, in other words, Jesus did not heal everyone, raise everyone from the dead, cast out all demons and the like. Here, in our text, at this time, Jesus prays that He might be given full authority over all, as true man, so that He might suffer, die and rise. Notice that even as Jesus is praying for Himself He has us in mind. He is praying for Himself so that He might be able to save us.

After completing His Father’s will, that is after fulfilling His Father’s plan of salvation for us which He accomplished by leaving heaven and all the glory that was His, taking on human flesh and blood and living as one of us. After His suffering and death and after His resurrection, Jesus prays that when He ascends into heaven that He might be given the place in heaven He gave up to come down and save the world. He prays that He might again be seated at the right hand of the Father in glory. That is His prayer for Himself. Not a selfish prayer, rather a prayer for Himself for our salvation.

Now, Jesus turns His attention and prays for His disciples. Jesus prays that His disciples might know the Father. He and the Father are one, as He continues to tell us. He prays that through Him and through His signs, wonders, and miracles they might know that He is God and that He came to save them. These disciples are no different than us. We are skeptical people. We have a hard time believing in Jesus just like the disciples and so Jesus is praying for His disciples.

Jesus prays that they might believe, especially following His suffering, death and resurrection. Remember, Thomas would not believe even though the other disciples had seen Jesus and had testified to him. How often do we find ourselves, not believing? Actually, we would probably never call it not believing, instead we would say we have some doubt, but that is what doubt is, not believing. We doubt God’s promises of salvation. We doubt God’s ability to do great things, in spite of us. We doubt God’s forgiveness as we waller in our guilt over our sins, not letting go of our sins.

Jesus prays that His disciples might share their faith with others. Jesus spent three years teaching His disciples for a purpose, so that they might go out and share the message of salvation with others.

At the same time, Jesus prays that they might be protected as they share their faith with others. Jesus is concerned for their well being. He prays that they might have divine protection. He knows the trials and tribulations, the struggles of this world. He knows the danger to life which come about because they will be proclaiming a message which is not the message the world wants to hear.

And Jesus prays that they might have eternal life. This is not because of the good and great things they do or will be doing, but because of the faith which they have, which He has given to them. Faith which will move them to do the good works they are to be doing. Jesus prays for Himself and He prays for His disciples.

As Jesus prays for Himself and for His disciples, I believe that He is also praying for us. By faith in Jesus, we too are His followers, His disciples and so He is praying for us here today, June 5, 2011, the members of St. Matthew Lutheran Church of Westfield, and the guests that we have in divine service worshiping with us this morning. Jesus prays that, as we “see” Him in His Word, though the signs, wonders and miracles He performed, that we might believe. Jesus is who He says He is. He is the sinless, Son of God. He is God in flesh. He is the one promised by God to come and save the world. As we read His Word, as we hear His Word proclaimed He shows Himself to us so that we might believe.

Jesus prays that we might believe that He is the Christ, the Messiah. He also prays that we might believe in His perfect life, in His suffering, death and resurrection for us. We are sinful human beings. We daily sin much and are in need of forgiveness. One quick trip through the ten commandments will refresh our memories of our sins. Yet, we do not have to pay the price for our sins, because Jesus paid that price for us. He gave His life so that we might have life. And yet, Jesus did not save us for nothing, He saves us for a purpose, as we talked about a couple weeks ago.

Jesus prays for the purpose for which He saves us. He prays that we might share our faith with others. We are not to keep the faith, we are to give it away. We are to show forth the faith that is in our hearts, as we said last week, through our thoughts, our words and our actions. What are our thoughts, our words and our actions saying about what is in our hearts? Jesus prays that they might say that we have faith in Him. By the way, this is what we call living in our vocations, that is as we live lives of faith in whatever our vocation, our work, our job or career, we live our lives as living sacrifice always being ready to give a defense, an answer for the hope that we have in Jesus.

Jesus prays that we might be protected as we share our faith with others. He knows the world in which we live, He spent time here. He understands that the message we have to share is not the message the world wants to hear. He knows that many suffer trials and tribulations because of their faith and so He prays that even through such trials and tribulations we might not lose faith.

Jesus prays that we might have eternal life. He came to give His life so that we might have eternal life. Jesus prays that by God’s grace, through faith in Him, faith given by the Holy Spirit through the means of grace, the Word and the Sacraments, we might have eternal life with Him in heaven. And Jesus continues to pray for us today.

And let me assure you and reassure you that I pray for you. I pray that as the Lord has sent you His Holy Spirit, that He will continue to send you His Holy Spirit to work, strengthen and keep you in faith. I pray that the Lord will send you His Holy Spirit to work in you a response of faith. That is that He will stir in you the desire to be about His business, doing the good works which He has for you to do here in this place. And as I pray for you I continue to ask that you pray for me. I ask that you pray that the Lord will give me the strength I need to resist temptation, to resist compromising the Gospel, and the strength to lead you forward, spreading the Gospel message, sharing the good news of salvation to this community, area, and city.

Finally, let me reassure you that God is with you and that He has and continues to send His Holy Spirit. This congregation is over 110 years old. This is not our church as some may believe. This church, this congregation was started before many of us were born and, should the Lord tarry and should the Lord allow, this church will continue on for as many years after us as the Lord should tarry. While we are alive, while we are this church and this congregation at this time, our work is to continue to be faithful, even unto death. I do say, our work, because as your pastor, while the Lord wills that I am in this place, I too am to be faithful. I am to be faithful in bringing you God’s Word, in administering His sacraments, in forgiving and in retaining sins. Just as the Lord sent the Holy Spirit to His first apostles, so the Lord continues to send His Holy Spirit to us.

Next week we celebrate the first giving of the Holy Spirit on that first Pentecost Sunday. As we prepare for that celebration, let me simply remind you, the reason I am a Lutheran, and a Missouri Synod Lutheran, and the difference between being a Lutheran and a Missouri Synod Lutheran and the rest of the Christian denominations is this, our understanding and I believe our Biblical understanding of justification and sanctification. Our church body rightly believes, teaches and confesses that justification and sanctification both begin and end with Jesus. Listen to other people as they flounder around and move from church to church, from denomination to denomination, not sure of what they believe. If you listen closely you will hear them focus on self, on what they believe they need to do for Jesus. Now, listen to what we believe, how we focus on Jesus. Jesus chose us. Jesus loved us. Jesus lived for us. Jesus took our sins. Jesus suffered for us. Jesus died for us. Jesus rose for us. Jesus ascended for us. Jesus is preparing a place for us. Jesus sent the Holy Spirit to give, strengthen and keep us in faith. Jesus gives us good works to do, but not only good works to do, but He does them, He works them through us to His glory. And when we reach our true home in heaven, Jesus robes us with His robes of righteousness. It is all about Jesus, just Jesus. And He stirs in us to say, to God be the glory. For Jesus’ sake. Amen.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Stewardship is . . . a reflection of faith.

When we get something new we cannot help ourselves, but we have to go and tell everyone. New Christians are very much the same way, they just have to go and tell their unchristian friends about their new faith. Their new faith shines through in their lives.

When you get a new hairdo or hair cut. When you get new clothes and try them on, you want to go look at yourself in a mirror to see how you look. What is on the outside is reflected in the mirror so you can see yourself.

Mirrors do not reflect what is on the inside of a person, but the way a person lives, what they think, say and do does reflect what is on the inside. And how your respond to all God’s good gifts and blessings also reflects the faith that is in your heart.

Do you believe that everything you have is gift from God? Do you believe that just as God has provided for your every need up until this point in your life? Do you believe God will continue to provide for all your needs? Does your stewardship say this about you, or does your stewardship say that you do not believe God has or will continue to provide for all your needs?

Praise the Lord that He does not rely on our faith and trust to provide us with all our good gifts and blessings. Even when we doubt our Lord still provides us with all we need to support our body and life. God’s continual giving reflects that love that He has for us, so much that He sent His one and only Son to suffer and die for us. God puts faith in our hearts. He also moves in us by the power of the Holy Spirit to help us reflect our faith through our stewardship. We pray He keeps working on us.
16 of 52 © Rev. Ronald A. Bogs

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Stewardship is . . . bringing in the tithe.

From where does the idea of tithing originate? It comes from Malachi 3:7b-12:
Return to me, and I will return to you,” says the Lord Almighty. “But you ask, ‘How are we to return?’ “Will a man rob God? Yet you rob me. “But you ask, ‘How do we rob you?’ “In tithes and offerings. You are under a curse—the whole nation of you—because you are robbing me. Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,” says the Lord Almighty, “and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it. I will prevent pests from devouring your crops, and the vines in your fields will not cast their fruit,” says the Lord Almighty. “Then all the nations will call you blessed, for yours will be a delightful land,” says the Lord Almighty.
First we should point out that just because this text is from the Old Testament does not mean that it is no longer applicable to us today. The whole of Scripture is God’s Word to us, useful for all things.

This text reminds us that our giving is important to God and not because He needs our money (as if we have something that God needs from us). Our giving to God truly is a measure of our faith that He will continue to heap blessings upon blessings to us.

This is also the only time in the Bible that God says to test Him. We test Him and we will see that He is faithful and just and will fulfill what He says, “see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it.”
15 of 52 © Rev. Ronald A. Bogs